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Reece Walsh suffers serious head blow in Broncos loss to Panthers

Andrew Mathieson -

Reece Walsh has suffered blurred vision and required stitches for a large gash under his left eye after a head clash in the opening minutes of the return bout against 2023 premiers Penrith.

Walsh came from the field for a head-injury assessment (HIA) inside just the opening five minutes of the Brisbane Broncos' first opportunity to seek revenge for their 26-24 grand final defeat last year.

The Murri man's head clashed during Panthers centre Taylan May's attempt to tackle hit high momentarily after Walsh offloaded a pass in attack.

Replays show that both men collided their heads at the impact.

May was placed on report, but unlike Walsh who came off worse for wear, the Panthers enforcer was not required to leave the field for a similar assessment.

The 21-year-old fullback did pass the HIA, but was unable to return.

"He's no good," Brisbane assistant coach Matt Balin told the broadcasters.

"He copped a fair whack in the first half – he won't be back."

The wound under Walsh's left eye was so severe that the Broncos doctor was unable to stem the bleeding in time to complete the HIA within the allocated 15 minutes.

The standard procedure also cost the Broncos a free interchange and arguably played a role in the visitors' hefty 34-12 defeat.

Walsh did actually return to the sideline after passing the HIA and being stitched, but was unable to catch a ball in a passing drill and was ruled out entirely at half-time.

The wound under Walsh's left eye was so severe that the Broncos doctor was unable to stem the bleeding in time to complete the HIA within the allocated 15 minutes. (Image: Mark Evens/AAP)

The scoreline was soon impacted after the Panthers in front of their home crowd pulled out to a 22-2 advantage by the interval.

Brisbane coach Kevin Walters said 75 minutes after the thud of a nasty-looking collision was heard across the ground, Walsh was still struggling.

"He's not too good in there," Walters said in the press conference after reporting back from the changerooms.

"He's having trouble seeing; he has a big gash.

"He tried to get back on, but, yeah, wasn't right.

"So we pulled him from the game."

While Walters was not drawn into whether the incident was worth weeks suspension or if it was just an unfortunate accident, he did admit that the Broncos could not use the loss of its star fullback on that kind of sorry performance.

The side that has slipped to an unenviable 1-2 win/loss record to start the new 2024 season without both their captain and halfback, Adam Reynolds, and also their most dangerous forward, Payne Haas for the much anticipated rematch.

"We faced adversity early and we didn't handle it as well as we should have," Walters said.

"I couldn't really see (the incident) because my eyes aren't that great.

"It's one of those things that happen."

Scans confirmed on Friday that Walsh suffered a facial fracture and is set to be sidelined for up to a month.

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